The importance of mangrove forests

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The lush mangrove foliage of Brgy. Dinahican in Infanta, Quezon

The lush mangrove foliage of Brgy. Dinahican in Infanta, Quezon

Mangrove forests serve as nature’s buffer between land and sea. They protect coastal communities from storm surges caused by typhoons and control erosion along the shoreline so that the waters would not easily engulf land. So when Super Typhoon Yolanda struck the Philippines, areas with mangrove forests suffered significantly less damage as the trees acted as shield from the strong winds and waves.

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The ecological importance of mangrove forests is seen as nurseries for marine organisms, including different species such as fish, crustaceans and mollusks, as well as being home to birds, insects and other wildlife.

If rainforests can store a ton of carbon per hectare, mangrove forests can store up to four times more acting as effective carbon sinks deterring global warming. The Philippines originally had around 450,000 hectares of mangrove forest, but it is unfortunate that despite their importance, the country has lost more than half of this area. The leading causes of this loss are the conversion into fishponds and excessive logging of mangrove trees for the production of charcoal, firewood, and timber.

Together with two foresters, the Haribon Foundation spent a week at Barangay Dinahican, Infanta, Quezon to conduct biodiversity assessment of the area and identify possible areas to plant mangroves trees.

My task was to use technologies such as GPS to delineate the boundaries and map out the areas we survey. The foresters assessed if the location is a feasible restoration site, and identified the species present in order to determine what native mangrove species should be planted for each area.

We have discovered that despite the lush mangrove foliage we see from the coast, just a short trek inland into the interior portion of mangrove forests would reveal large areas that are denuded where an excessive number of trees have been cut down.

By the end of the week, we were able to identify and delineate at least 20 hectares of denuded forest. But given more time, we would have found more.

Through corporate and local partnerships, we hope to not just replant the denuded areas with mangrove trees but also ensure their continued growth and protection.

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